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From the President : Countdown to conference

Every Issue

Cite as: (2003) 77(3) LIJ, p.4

Victorian lawyers are urged to show their support for the Commonwealth Law Conference.

The 13th Commonwealth Law Conference will soon be on us. The Law Institute is responsible for organising this event which will be held in Melbourne next month. It is the first time since the early 1960s that the conference has been held in Australia. As many as 2000 delegates from more than 60 Commonwealth countries are expected.

I urge Victorian lawyers to show their support. Registration forms are contained in the conference brochure, copies of which are available from the Institute or you can register online at

The conference begins with a welcome reception on Sunday, 13 April and concludes after lunch on Thursday, 17 April, the day immediately before Easter. More than 50 business sessions have been planned, covering every area of legal practice.

The conference boasts an impressive line-up of legal speakers, including Cherie Booth QC, Chris Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong and now European Commissioner for External Relations, Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Phillips, the Master of the Rolls, the Chief Justices of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, Karpal Singh, one of Malaysia’s most prominent defence lawyers, the Attorneys-General of Australia and India, and Judge Albie Sachs, a member of the South African Constitutional Court and formerly one of the leading human rights lawyers in South Africa during the struggle against Apartheid.

A wonderful social program has also been organised. In addition to the welcome reception, there will be a gala dinner at the home of Australia’s first Parliament, the Royal Exhibition Building, on Tuesday, 15 April and home hospitality will be offered to our visitors on the Wednesday evening.

A range of satellite meetings of other legal organisations will be held in Melbourne to coincide with the conference. These include meetings of judges, the Standing Committee of Australia’s Attorneys-General, Commonwealth Chief Justices and the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration.

The conference will showcase Australia’s legal system and provide a powerful demonstration that Australia has one of the most transparent and highly-developed legal systems in the world. This is a fundamental pre-requisite to attracting international business investment to Australia.

I have just returned from a hectic eight-day visit to India and Sri Lanka to promote the conference. Deputy conference chair Rod Smith and I attended the LAWASIA Business Law Conference in Delhi. We distributed conference brochures and hosted receptions for Indian and Sri Lankan lawyers at the Australian High Commissions in New Delhi and Colombo. There was a high level of interest in the conference from these lawyers. Due to the different cost structures between those countries and Australia, a number of their delegates will be looking for billeted accommodation with their Australian counterparts in Melbourne. If you feel able to accommodate a delegate at home please contact Pat Hogan at the Law Institute, tel 9607 9328.

Our experience with the Indian legal system was an eye-opener. There are currently 29 million cases awaiting trial in the District Courts in India (the equivalent of our County Court). As well, there are just on three million cases awaiting trial in India's High Court (the equivalent of our Supreme Court) and 225,000 cases awaiting trial in India’s highest court, the Supreme Court in Delhi. The current delay in cases coming to trial in India is between 26 and 30 years. Legal actions are handed down from one generation to the next. It certainly highlighted the opportunity for Australian lawyers to promote alternative dispute resolution and pre-trial and court-directed mediation.

Nevertheless, we have much in common with lawyers in India and Sri Lanka. English remains the language used in the superior courts in both countries, and the common law system is much in evidence.

Already many Victorian laws firms have thrown their weight behind the conference as sponsors. I urge you, as Institute members, to show your support by registering members of your firm to attend. For Australian lawyers, the cost for a five-day registration is $1100. This includes all the social events. Alternatively, a day pass costs $550. Conference registrations are transferable so a firm can have lawyers attend different sessions using the one conference registration. For most practitioners, the conference fees will be fully tax deductible.

I forward to seeing you at the conference next month.

Bill O’Shea


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